I am so sorry it’s taken me so long to publish. We have been travelling a bit faster than usual (2-3 nights per place, instead of 5) and in some cases had no wifi, so it’s been tough!
Our arrival in Amsterdam (8/26) was pretty standard. Arrived at the train station, grabbed a taxi. Arrived at our HOUSE BOAT! YAY! Taxi was insanely expensive BOO! HA. Oh well. Our host met us a few minutes later and showed us around. It’s not very big, but it IS ON THE WATER. We have chairs on the deck. A ladder for getting out of the water (yes, we can swim, they say it’s very clean). And just a basic room with a shower and a table/chairs, and a bathroom. There is no sink in the bathroom. Only in the ‘kitchen’ area. No ‘living room’. No kitchen really, we can’t cook on the boat. Fire hazard maybe? We can make coffee. We have a tiny fridge. It’s really quite quaint and nice.
Of course, once I’ve studied the map a bit, the tram system, and decided a few places we would like to go, it’s time for a nap. HA. After that, a nice dinner outside at a neighbourhood restaurant, and bed time. As many of you have heard, Europeans savour their dining time. So, dinner is never a quick affair. It’s assumed that you want to stay there for hours, unless you specify otherwise. No biggie. I enjoyed the locally-brewed beer and schnitzel. Laney had a caesar salad with chicken.
The next morning, we were still moving a little slow. A load of laundry. Downloaded some new books from the OC library. A workout. A swim 🙂 off the dock. Chill in the sunshine a bit. Finally get ready and head out. We are mostly in search of food. HA. Though we are headed to the centre to see what there is to see.
We used our Scrubba for our swim – (laundry bag and washer. now flotation device!)
We do some shopping. There are so many stores. Some are familiar, some are new. H&M. Primark. We take a picture of this beautiful hallway. A few days later I get an email in my inbox from Atlas Obscura about it. check it out here Amazing how similar their pictures are to mine, though theirs are obviously much better ha.
We also saw this unique tram. Perhaps painted for the recent Gay Pride celebration in Amsterdam
While walking to the tram stop to get home, I notice a tattoo and piercing shop. Next to it (you can’t miss it) a sex shop. Hmmm I say. The Airbnb host (Paul) said he recommended a specific piercing shop. He marked it on the map and said it was next to a sex shop. We check the map and YUP, that’s the place. So we go in, and ask a very nice young woman about ear piercing. She asks how old Laney is and if I am her mother. 13 on the day of the piercing and yes. Well, apparently we need ID because piercing of minors is not allowed without a parent. NO problem. We’ll be back in a couple days. The place seems very nice, clean (sterile almost) and the woman explains pricing, etc.
We head home for the night, grab some groceries and some beer. Chill on the deck. Call home. Listen to music, play some cards.
The next day is similar. Coffee. Workout. A bite. Head out late again. This time we have some goals. The Cat Boat. The Flower Market. The 9 Streets area. We accomplish 2 out of 3. HA. The Cat Boat was neat, though a little sad with one cat there in very bad shape. I give a donation and then find 20 EUROs on the floor, so I gave them that too. Then we wander around the 9 streets. Its a traditional Amsterdam neighbourhood with cobblestone streets, lots of canals and bridges, and some unique shops (not the big names that are in the centre). We both end up buying new shoes. Of course, part of the negotiation (internally and out loud) is which shoes will we get rid of in order to make room? This is always the dilemma. HA.
Laney isn’t up for any more for the day, especially the Flower Market (floating, by the way). So we again grab some food and head home. Pick up a couple more Radlers too.
Same routine pretty much at home. It’s a good one. Beers on the deck. Talk to people at home.
The next day, while finishing my work out and getting some sun on the deck, one of our hosts comes by. I’ve not met Robert yet, but he is so sweet and friendly. He mentions they will be going for a boat ride in about an hour would we like to go. OF COURSE. I know Laney’s #1 priority is getting her ears pierced. But, we’ll leave about 1230, be gone about 2 hours, so we can go do the piercing in the afternoon. Along with maybe the Flower Market. HA.
The boat ride is wonderful. Paul and Robert are very laid back, and open-minded. We talk about life’s history, dreams and plans. Robert and Paul own a restaurant, and hope to work hard at that for 5 years and then get a place in Spain where they can vacation in the Amsterdam winter. They have traveled a good deal, and been to Thailand a few times. They give me some tips on the culture there. They love it, but at times grow tired of the ‘false gratitude’ and maybe it’s a little too laid back at times. Like when things don’t work, and they don’t bother to fix them (like water in your room). Laney and I talk a bit about our ‘adventure’ and whether the pace is too fast or too slow. We generally agree that 5 nights isn’t enough in a place you love, like Amsterdam. But maybe too much in a place you don’t love. And you don’t know until you get there.
An interesting (to me) side note here. All of Europe seems to be very competitive when it comes to what is the ‘best’ place to visit or live in Europe. They all want to hear that THIS is your FAVORITE place. As if it really matters what I think. HA. There’s a lot of rivalry in other ways too. A lot of it about WWII. Lots of people still resent the Germans. I find that hard to believe so many years later. People are generally grateful for the Americans, though. Still, from our role in WWII. I don’t know how to respond to it. It’s not like I did anything. Or even my ancestors, as far as I know.
Anyway, as we ride around the canals, as we do when sitting on the deck, we wave at people. It is customary here, as Paul told me when we first checked in. As if, not waving, while sitting on their deck, would reflect badly on them. So, we ride the canals, we wave. At one point, a man shouts something (of course, I don’t understand). Robert responds to the man. I look at him questioningly. He tells me “He said you have a nice smile. ..I told him you don’t understand Dutch and you don’t like him.” We laugh and Robert admits he only said the first part. HA.
I ask Robert and Paul a lot of ‘practical’ questions. Laney laughs and says I think too much and always need to know how things work. Like, on some canals there are big houseboats. On others, just small recreational type boats. How is this managed? I never got a straight answer about the recreational boats, but the houseboat ‘spots’ are managed by the city (or some such entity), and there are 2,200 if I understood correctly. The ones in the city centre are a specific rate. Outside of that, it’s less money. It’s an annual type of fee. Paul and Robert were offered a new spot, because they complained about the current one. There is a train that goes by, and, I take it, it’s running more frequently now, and they complain of the noise. So, Robert says, they were offered one of the ’emergency’ spots that is kept open. They show me the spot. They are considering it. They think their houseboat might be too big to fit, unless the next one moves down. Or too wide. They tell me that a houseboat, the structure itself, is many times built on the water because the surrounding bridges are too low to pass it through. And that a houseboat would cost in the neighbourhood of $400k. Depending on size and condition, of course.
Robert remarked how people (men, he says) ‘size you up’ by the boat you are driving. This is somehow funnier, coming from Robert, who is unmistakably gay, with an accent that makes everything he says funnier. He talks a little about the gay community in Amsterdam. How things are changing. Lesbians can be more feminine than they used to. Though, he jokes, some “are more man than me”. And he tells them so. I still laugh thinking about that. It’s funny in so many ways.
I insist that we want to eat at their restaurant, which is closed Monday and Tuesday (hence they have time to take us on the boat) so I promise to go the next night, our last night in Amsterdam.
After the boat ride, we head out for the piercing. The girl had explained that a gun would be used for the piercing, but it was completely different than what I expected. IN a good way. We wait our turn a bit, tell the girl what we want and which earrings Laney wants. She sends us downstairs. The girl there is also very nice and professional. She swabs Laney’s ear (as the mom I need to ask to be sure it’s alcohol, it looks like water, HA), dots the with some (I assume) iodine. Has us check the placement of the dots. Adjusts one. Then pulls out two plastic boxes in sealed containers. I can see the earrings. I keep looking for, and waiting to see the ‘gun’. I’m picturing something like a staple gun, or a hole punch. Nope. It’s in the container. Two small pieces of white plastic, each holding a part of the earring (front and back). She holds it up to Laney’s ear, slides the two pieces together and DONE. Laney didn’t even flinch. She does the second one and we are out of there. Laney looking a little foreign to me with earrings. HA. It was great, though. I had no worries about them being clean or sterile.
So, we get Laney a donut (she said she wanted to eat donuts all day on her birthday).
We wandered to the Flower Market after that. Lots of plants, lots of bulbs. We saw some cool things but it wasn’t ALL THAT. HA.
We then stumbled across a Torture Museum. Well, all things dark and terrible are Laney, so we did that. It was very interesting. All the different torture devices used throughout the ages.
Then some ‘real’ food, if you consider Subway real food. I opted for the Wok and Walk. So good. I’m going to open one of these on the OC Boardwalk.
We head home again, for another chill evening.
The next day it’s raining, so an even more chill day than usual. HA. It slows down a little so we tackle the things Laney wanted to do – Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum and the Dungeon. We would have done them on her birthday but we did the boat ride instead. Because it’s raining hard, we opt for the first one we see, which is the Dungeon. This is pretty cool. They move a large group of people from one creepy room to another with a kind of story, there are live actors who play scary characters. Once or twice someone jumps out at you. And they pick on people in the group/audience. Laney in particular. She was accused and sentenced to death for being a witch. She took it all pretty well. Enjoyed it, in fact. At one point, they asked her what her name was. She said Laney. Had to say it a few times. Eventually they just called her ‘Strange Name’. HA. No pictures were allowed in the Dungeon so you’ll have to imagine Laney being burned at the stake. Because she was.
After that, Madam Tussauds. It was fun. Mostly the Marvel area. Funny, in another country there are lots of ‘famous’ people that we don’t recognise. Sports heroes. Royalty, and leaders. THESE, we get tho. HA.
Headed home after that, in the rain. Saw some interesting stuff on our way
We got changed and ordered an Uber to the restaurant. At first we were at the wrong one (Uber dropped us at not quite the right place). We found the place and Robert was so excited to see us, they had reserved a table for us! We had an amazing dinner. It’s just the two of them that run a small menu. I asked what the name of the restaurant meant, Robert said ‘The Small Menu’. De Kleine Kaart. It was a small menu, in my opinion the sign of really good food. And it was GREAT. They were nice enough to make a birthday dessert for Laney. It as kind of like carrot cake/spice cookie, with creamy filling with coconut. Some of Laney’s favourite things. And that ‘candle’! WOW!
That is Robert and Paul’s dog, Pepo. She was allowed to sit with us once everyone else left the restaurant. She LOVED Laney. Robert told me about how Pepo has a girlfriend, and how difficult and embarrassing it is for him and Paul to have a gay dog. HA! He says it all with a straight face, so hilarious.
This is that incredible dessert that Paul made for Laney. She let me have a FEW bites. HA
Once they wrapped up, Robert gave us a ride home. And a ride to the train station the next morning.
Off to Antwerp! Was intended to be a quick, easy, train ride, but it wasn’t! That’s a story for the next blog.